November 30, 2009

Serena Williams Receives $175,000 Fine and Probation for US Open Outburst

So the conclusion of the whole Serena Williams thing is that the ITF has decided she will receive a $175,000 fine and two years of probation. Good behavior will result in her fine being reduced by half if she does not commit another major offense prior to 2011 (so her fine is really more like $87,500). Read all about it here: Serena Williams Receives $175,000 Fine and Probation for US Open Outburst - On the Baseline Tennis News.

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In my opinion, this doesn't seem like a very stiff penalty, all things considered monetarily for Serena. I just wonder if we will see that particular lineswoman calling lines at another Slam final.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

Winning the Warm-Up

Does this sound like your typical match warm-up? You say hello to your opponent, ask her name, immediately forget her names and open your can of balls. You start with a few minutes of mini-court (very few), move to a few minutes of ground strokes, you come in to take a few volleys and an overhead or two, your opponent comes in to take her volleys and overheads, you both hit a few serves and then - voila! - you're ready to play! This whole thing probably lasts 10 to 15 minutes at most. Probably less.

I promise you - if that is your warm-up, you are not warmed up. If you want to get a jump start on your match and your opponent, you will have to do some warming up well before you get out on the court with your opponent.

For a tennis match, you need to get your body, especially your large muscle groups, moving.  And I'm not talking about running a mile before your match.  Maybe you do some walking or light jogging on a tread mill.  If you're like me, you don't have a lot of time to do anything much before you play.  So maybe your warm up consists of just a few minutes of jogging in place, hopping around, maybe doing some jumping jacks.

You should also do some stretching.  While the jury is out on just how much benefit stretching is prior to any physical activity, I feel like it helps me to get all of the "kinks" out before the match starts. Here are some easy stretches you can perform out near the court before your match starts and no one will look at you like you're some kind of nut for doing this stuff:

First, to get your legs stretched out, try this standing hamstring stretch. Lifting your toes will help stretch out your calves.

Next, use this standing thigh stretch to get the front of your large leg muscles stretched. The net posts can be used to balance you for lots of other stretches too.

To make sure your arms are ready to reach up for serves and overheads and out for wide volleys, perform this tricep stretch on both arms.

And don't forget to stretch out your forearms and fingers so that your arms and hands feel loose and ready for soft touch volleys.

Just doing these few things before you warm up with your opponent should help immensely. If you can then find someone, like your partner, to show up early and hit with you for 15 to 20 minutes before your match, that would be even better!

For more information on warming up before a match, check out Turbo Tennis: Stretching it to the Limit but not Beyond! where these great tennis stretching photos came from.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 29, 2009

Serena Williams Facing Possible Fine of One Million Dollars

Here's the latest on Serena Williams from On The Baseline. Read this and then give me your reaction. Mine? Yikes!

Serena Williams Facing Possible Fine of One Million Dollars

Serena Williams

World number one Serena Williams could potentially face a fine of one million dollars because of her unsportsmanlike conduct at the US Open.

The International Tennis Federation’s Grand Slam Committee is expected to announce its decision this weekend as to whether Serena will be fined or suspended for her actions.

Among the options being discussed, according to Australia’s Courier Mail, is a fine of one million dollars or the loss of her US Open prize money and ranking points. Williams could also potentially face a suspension from the 2010 US Open.

Davydenko Wins ATP World Tour Finals

Hey - remember a few days ago when I said the ATP World Tour finals had just started and I had a photo up of all 8 of the participants? And remember when I said this: "Nikolay Dayvedenko is next and honestly, if he wasn't standing with this group of guys, would you have any idea he's a world-class tennis player? I love that about him." Well, guess who ended up winning the whole dang thing? That's right - Nikolay Davydenko! Here's the blow-by-blow account of the final by a BBC sports writer who was there:
Davydenko takes World Tour title
By Piers Newbery, BBC Sport at the O2 Arena

Nikolay Davydenko became the first Russian to win the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals with a brilliant display against Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro.

The 28-year-old claimed the biggest title of his career, and a cheque for just over £900,000, with a 6-3 6-4 defeat of the US Open champion.

Davydenko, who beat Rafael Nadal, Robin Soderling and Roger Federer on his way to the final, was sharper throughout as Del Potro appeared to be feeling the after-effects of his semi-final win over Soderling the previous evening.

For the eighth successive day, around 17,000 spectators packed into the O2 Arena that has proved such a success on its debut as host to the most prestigious event outside the four Grand Slams.

Davydenko was making his second successive appearance in the final, having lost to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai last year, and the Russian was full of confidence after finally beating Federer at the 13th attempt in the semi-finals.

Making his fifth consecutive appearance at the eight-man season finale, the low-key Davydenko had another chance to land a title that would finally reflect his status in the game.

He started where he left off against Federer, all industry from the baseline and prepared to make the occasional dart to the net, while Del Potro appeared to be suffering a hangover from Saturday's late-night semi-final.

His mood was not helped when, after saving a first break point in game three he was called for a foot-fault on the second and, clearly unsettled, mishit a forehand seconds later to hand Davydenko the break at 3-1.

Del Potro was still swiping his racquet in frustration as the following game began and it was not until game seven that he got a chance to recover after Davydenko double-faulted at 30-30, but the Russian immediately regained his composure and struck a perfect forehand into the corner on the break point.

Davydenko was now in command, making 70% of first serves and flinging himself out wide to anticipate Del Potro's flat serves and favourite off-forehand into the corner, and he wrapped up the first set after 38 minutes.

The season looked to have finally caught up with Del Potro in game five of the second but he did well to fend off two break points with big serves to stay in touch.

Davydenko came through a dangerous moment in the following game when he saved two break points with a first serve and a serve-volley, but the Russian remained the player controlling the tempo.

After one of the best weeks of his career, Davydenko put together his best game of the week to break in game nine as he expertly moved Del Potro around to create space for winners on his way to a love game.

The seventh seed faced the biggest service game of his life and he came through it confidently to win in one hour 23 minutes when Del Potro netted a forehand.


Photo by Getty Images

© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Tennis Fixation!

Will I be playing tennis today? Probably not. I got up this morning and did the Turkey Trot with my family. By "did" I mean I walked the 5K with my college-age daughter and 9-year-old son. Sure, I wanted to run it. But they didn't so we had some family time together by walking.

I plan on spending the rest of the day eating, watching football and thinking about the fun planned for December here at Tennis Fixation. Have a great Thanksgiving and stay tuned - you won't want to miss the holidays at Tennis Fixation!


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 25, 2009

Become A Tennis Sub!

Almost every tennis team I've ever been on, I joined by first becoming a sub. The only team I didn't start out with as a sub was my very first team - it was my neighborhood team and I think it would have violated the deed restrictions for them to have refused me a spot (I was really, really bad).

So, if you want to play league tennis or join any kind of team, being a sub is probably inevitable. Its the best way for a team and its captain to see you play and to see how you get along with other team members. And, in most cases, becoming a sub is as easy as calling a captain up and asking to be added to the sub list. I have seen very, very few teams where someone had to "try out" to become a sub. Most captains are desperately looking for people to make sure they fill all their lines week after week. And even in cases where there is some kind of try out, this usually consists of just hitting with the captain to make sure you're close to the team's level and have the kind of personality that will fit with the team.

Become a sub - this is absolutely the best way to get on a team. And don't consider being a sub to be beneath you. Think about it - you play when you want with who you want because you can always say no. But don't say no. Because today you're a sub, tomorrow you're the reliable sub filling in for the team member who got injured and the next day, you're the great player that the team needs as a regular member. And if you're looking to move to a higher level team, becoming a sub ensures that you'll get the challenging match play you need to make that leap up.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 23, 2009

Cold Weather Tennis

Last week I played tennis where temperatures started out in the (get ready for this) 40's! Here in Houston that is FREEEEEZZZZING!  OK, I know. That's not really very cold at all.  In fact, on both mornings, it went from being a little chilly at the beginning of each match to being pretty darn warm by the end. But I live in Texas because I like hot weather and the thought of wearing tights under a tennis skirt - Yuck!  Not the tennis fashion statement I'm looking to make.

But, the reality is, its time to think about cold weather tennis.  If you're a true die-hard tennis player, you want to play even when it gets pretty darn chilly.  So the issue becomes what to wear and how to play on these frosty days (or nights).  Here are some tips that might make your next cold weather match more enjoyable:
  • Wear layers. Lots and lots of layers. If I think I'm going to be playing in the cold, I wear a whole lot of layers.  On top:  racer-back tank, long-sleeved sports t-shirt made of some type of dry-wick fabric, sweat shirt or long-sleeved cotton t-shirt, hoodie, sleeveless ski vest.  On bottom:  tights under skirt with built-in shorts (meaning those tights are staying on) or long yoga pants that will securely hold the ball in the back at the waist (see below).  On my head:  a baseball-type hat.  I don't ever wear a visor because it makes my hair look weird.  I don't wear a ski hat for the same reason (unless I'm skiing and then I don't really care because everyone's hair looks weird then).  So with all of these layers on, you can see its easy to start peeling the clothes off as I get warmer and, in fact, I would rather be a little bit chilly than play with all of this bulk so I never actually play a match with this much stuff on.
  • Make sure what you wear on the bottom allows you to hold onto a tennis ball.  Deciding what to wear on the bottom is the big cold-weather issue for me because it has to be something that allows me to hold onto a second ball without any possibility of it falling out since I know from previous posts that I can't call a let for something I cause myself like a ball falling out of my pants and rolling around on the court (click on these posts for more info:  Tennis Lets-Get It Right! and Update on the Loose Balls Issue).  And I don't like those little ball holder thingys that some people wear.  If you're OK wearing one of those thingys, this won't be as big of an issue for you.  So if I wear tights, I have to have a skirt with shorts on top so I can tuck a ball into the shorts.  And if I wear pants, they have to be yoga pants that fit well enough that I can tuck a ball into the waistband in back without any possibility of it falling out or down into my pants.  Nice visual there.
  • Wear gloves.  I have cotton running gloves in my bag that i like and at least get me started during warm-up.  They provide a little more traction and "feel" than some of the cheap double-knit gloves.  A lot of people use Isotoner style driving gloves.  I just never remember to buy those so I stick with my running gloves.  I usually take them off by the time the match actually starts as I know I'll play better if my hands are a little cold but I can actually feel my racquet.
  • Wear sunscreen.  Even though its cold, it can still be pretty sunny and that means sunscreen is a must.  And, if you start taking off layers on top, be sure you protect your shoulders and any other exposed skin from the sun.  This is why spray-on sunscreen is great - its quick and easy to apply and can be done during a changeover.
  • Wear lip balm.  Cold weather usually means dry weather and often means wind.  I never notice having chapped lips when its hot outside.  But when its cold - sandpaper!  So avoid chapped lips by keeping a good lip balm (hopefully with sunscreen) in your bag.
  • Keep hydrated.  When the weather's hot, its easy to remember to drink and keep hydrated.  When its cold, its not so easy.  But you can get dehydrated and suffer the effects of that just as easily in the cold.  So keep drinking during your match.  
  • Be prepared for the cold weather game.  You'll find that, when its cold outside, the tennis balls are just not as bouncy.  So be ready to hit harder and deeper than you're used to and come into the net a lot (which you should be doing in doubles anyway).  This will help compensate for the ball being a little "dead" feeling.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 22, 2009

Cheerio and All That, My Good Man!

OK, you're supposed to read that title with an English accent.  And then it will seem clever!  Maybe.

The Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals began today in London and, while I haven't had much to say about pro tennis lately, I saw this photo of the 8 guys playing and couldn't pass up the opportunity to let you see it too. I love this. From left to right, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic look too, too cute with their suits and umbrellas.  Roger Federer appears to be out at just another fashion shoot.  This stuff is really old hate for him.  Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray?  Awkward.  And why does Andy Murray feel awkward in a suit, holding an umbrella in front of a double-decker bus in London?  Isn't this a typical pose for him?  Nikolay Davydenko is next and honestly, if he wasn't standing with this group of guys, would you have any idea he's a world-class tennis player?  I love that about him.  And, last but not least, Robin Soderling, who most certainly is asking himself, "how the hell did I get here?"  He's going to have a lot of fun over the next few days.

Andy Roddick is noticeably absent due to injury.  Boo hoo.

I'll be keeping up with this particular tournament but, if you've noticed in the sidebar to the right, I'm already counting down the days until the Australian Open in January 2010.  Hurray up and get here already!


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 18, 2009

Quick Tennis Fix: Get Up To The Net!

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to improve your doubles game - get up to the net - both of you! You know that the team that controls the net, controls the match. So you and your partner must always be working towards taking over the net. It may happen right away, on your serve or return, or it may take a few balls for you both to get up there. But as long as even one of you is playing back, you're playing defensively and that is not a winning strategy.

And if your partner wants to hang back, you need to encourage her to get up there with you. If she hasn't been coming to the net, you're probably not winning anyway. So convince her now is the time to try something different.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 16, 2009

Everybody Got Their Something!

One year, my daughter came back from summer camp with this great song - "Everybody Got Their Something" by Nikka Costa. It's a song about how everyone is special in some way. Obviously a great song for a bunch of girls at summer camp.

But, what a great tennis song! Because the reality is, no matter what level we're at, no matter how long we've been playing, we've all got something special about our tennis game. We just have to figure out what it is.

So what's your strength? Are you a great lobber? Then you need to lob your heart out. Because I hate playing lobbers. And so do a lot of other people. So don't be embarrassed to lob. Don't let people tell you that if you're lobbing, you're not playing real tennis. For gosh sake, don't avoid your lob. Use it to your advantage and wear people like me out with it.

Do you have a powerful but unorthodox first serve? I'm all about perfecting my form and service motion. But maybe you're not. And maybe whatever it is you're doing, it works for you. I remember playing a woman who had a toss that went up about 1 foot. No more than that. But somehow she was able to whip her arm around and hit that low toss and her serve was great! It was almost painful to watch and, after the match, she talked about her attempts to change her toss but it worked for her and so she ultimately just kept at it.

Do you have a lot of energy? Do you never get tired? This is how I like to play. And the hotter it gets, and the longer the match goes, the more energetic I try to get. I want my opponents to think I'm never, ever going to get tired. Believe me, I have won matches simply by running and running and tiring out my opponents.

So figure out what your strength is, what your "something" is, and use it. Don't avoid it.

And here's a link to Nikka Costa's "Everybody Got Their Something" on Pandora - just click here!


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 14, 2009

"Your Calls Are So Bad - You Need Glasses!"

Sometimes people ask me, "Aren't you afraid you'll run out of things to say about tennis?" And then I play a match where one of my opponents says, "Your calls are so bad that you need glasses!" and I think I'm never going to run out of things to say about tennis.

Yesterday I played on my Champ level team (me at Champ level is a whole other story) with Susan who could not be sweeter, nicer and funner to play with. Somewhere in about the third game of the first set, I swear it was that early, after Susan had called one of our opponent's shots out for maybe the third time, our opponent lost it. I mean completely LOST it. Her exact words were, "That's at least the seventh bad call you've made! Seriously! Your calls are so bad - you need glasses!" Susan responded, the opponent responded, this went on for just a little while. And then we went back to playing.

To say the match suddenly got unfriendly would be putting it mildly. And the trash talk did not end there. On one of the changeovers, our opponent's partner somehow found the opportunity to tell Susan, "Well, I'm not going to make bad calls just because someone else is making bad calls. I'm totally supportive of my partner."

Geez Louise!

The good news for me and MY partner is this ridiculous exchange really fired us up. Susan was NOT going to lose this match. And she wasn't going to let me lose it either. We ultimately won in a third-set super tiebreaker so, in my opinion, it could have gone either way. But my partner not only did NOT lose her cool, she kept me going. She kept me calm and on track.

And we won! Without telling anyone they needed glasses! What a fun match!

AND, by the way, the trash talker HIT me in the leg on an overhead AND she apologized profusely. Her mistake.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 13, 2009

"Sorry I Almost Hit You In The Face"

Now you all know I am a stickler for good tennis etiquette. Most recently, we reviewed a whole bunch of posts on this very topic: It's Just Common Tennis Etiquette!

But here's a situation that I haven't said anything about even though it comes up in a good three-quarters of the matches that I play. Specifically, what is the etiquette when you hit someone or almost hit someone with the ball when you are hitting the ball? You know what I mean? You're at the net, volleying right at the net person and you come within an inch or two of hitting her in the face. Or you slam an overhead back at your opponent's feet but you end up catching her in the thigh. You didn't do it on purpose but do you owe them an apology?

On the one hand, what harm does it do to apologize to someone for almost beaning them in the face, whether that apology is heartfelt or not? And the type of tennis we're talking about playing is fun tennis, right? So, arguably, you could apologize for just about anything that comes within your opponent's danger zone.

On the other hand, I am just a little bit competitive (as evidenced, for example, by the existence of this blog) as I'm sure you are. And I may actually be aiming the ball in my opponent's direction to win the point. Especially if she's right up at the net and doesn't have a lot of time to react. And if she doesn't react fast enough, well, she might get hit by the ball. And I really don't feel compelled to apologize for that. I mean, at some point you have to see the obvious shot that's coming and get out of the way, right?

So, here are the hard and fast rules I'm following regarding apologizing:
  • If I hit you, I'm probably going to apologize. Unless you've previously hit me and not apologized.
  • If I come pretty darn close to hitting you but I don't, I probably won't apologize. Especially if you're being a real &*!%$ during our match.
And, by the way, I'm noticing when I play at higher levels, there aren't a whole heck of a lot of apologies flying around.

Am I wrong here?  Do you think you might as well apologize for everything?  Or are you never apologizing ever?  Let me know.  Maybe I'll stop apologizing altogether.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 11, 2009

Tennis & Swine Flu

Yes, that's right - the title of this post is "Tennis & Swine Flu." Am I the only person worried about getting swine flu from tennis?  I was playing recently and one of my opponents:
  • was coughing excessively,
  • appeared sick to me, and
  • had her hands all over the balls.
And all I could think of was - am I going to get swine flu from this lady?  OK, I admit its unlikely.  But, since we're passing balls back and forth and, often, putting our hands in the same snacks and on the same water coolers, I thought it might be a good idea for all of us to observe a few precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu out on the courts.  So here we go:
  1. Get disinfected.  Yes, I'm afraid that there is now something else you have to carry around in your tennis bag - hand sanitizer.  The number one way that germs get transmitted from person to person is by the hands.  Now, I'm not saying you need to be disinfecting during your match.  Believe me, I have enough problems making sure my grip is dry enough but still tacky enough without adding a liquid or gel disinfectant to the mix.  But you need to make hand hygiene a priority during flu season and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a quick and easy way to keep your hands clean.
  2. Get your own snacks and drinks.  Just bring it yourself.  Avoid the whole sharing thing, just for a little while anyway. 
  3. Get plenty of exercise.  If you're reading this, then you're playing tennis and you're well on your way to getting all of the exercise you need to fight the flu.  Exercise makes for healthier cells and a faster-acting immune system.  So keep up the good work.
  4. Get plenty of sleep.  Just like exercise, getting a good, long sleep strengthens your body's defenses and lowers your chances of catching a cold or the flu. 
  5. Get some supplements.  Again, supplements make for a healthier body which makes for a stronger defense against the flu.  You should already be taking a multi-vitamin.  You might also consider adding a dose of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and 1,000 IU of Vitamin D each day.
  6. Get the swine flu vaccine.  I know, easier said than done.  Not even my doctor husband has been able to get the H1N1 vaccine yet.  But when it becomes available to us normal people, we're all getting it and you should too.
I know - all of this makes me sound like a paranoid hypochondriac whacko.  Just wait until someone hands you a tennis ball that they've coughed all over.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 9, 2009

Tennis Lets - Update On The "Loose Balls" Issue

Just a few days ago, we talked about what happens when you drop a ball during a point: Tennis Lets - Get It Right! The precise issue was - if a ball falls out of your skirt or shorts during a point and you thereby cause a let, can you call a let? And the answer is, of course, no. You can't call a let when you've caused it. Your opponent can call it but you can't.

So what if you're playing doubles, your partner is serving, you're at the net, and your partner drops a ball that is now rolling around at your feet, unbeknownst to you? Can your partner who dropped the ball call a let when you're the one in danger of stepping on the ball?

The answer is, sadly, no. In doubles, you live and die as a team and the actions of your partner are imputed to you as a team. So if your partner's having a great day, playing out of her head, good for you! You get the benefit of her great play too. If your partner's having a bad day and can't seem to hit a winner to save her life, well, you go down with her. AND, if your partner is back there dropping balls, she can't call a let for your team. Your only hope is that (1) you'll see the ball and not step on it, (2) the other team will be concerned enough to call a let, or (3) your partner likes you enough and is concerned enough about your safety to stop play and give up the point.

This actually just happened to me a few days ago. My partner's shorts were loose and she dropped a ball behind me. Fortunately for me, she followed scenario 3 above, stopped play and we gave our opponents the point. After that, I held the balls for her to avoid a repeat of that situation.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 7, 2009

Tennis Snack Fix: Custom Artisinal Cereal!

Custom artisinal cereal? What?

I was recently contacted by Me and Goji to try mixing up my very own "custom artisinal cereal." Me and Goji lets you choose from over 50 healthy, organic ingredients to mix your own cereal or granola. They have an incredibly easy site that holds your hand through the whole process.

First, you pick the base for your cereal. There are a lot of them (too many for me to sit at my computer and count) and they are all over-the-top in how good they are for you. I picked the "Flaxed and Flaked" cereal base as I'm going through this thing with flax seeds lately.

Then, you get to add the fun stuff - all kinds of dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Again, there are plenty of these and for each and every one, a simple click tells you exactly why you would want to put that ingredient in your mix. I picked goji (lots of antioxidants, plus I had no idea what this was), mulberry (full of resveratol so I don't have to just depend on drinking red wine), banana (sweet and yummy), currants (a top source of boron, who knew?), chia (lots of omega-3s, plus it just sounded weird) and amaranth (plenty of lysine, surely I'm low on this).

And then comes the absolute best part - you get to name your cereal! My mix is called Tennis Fixation "Fix My Forehand!" Mix.  I've almost eaten the whole "capsule" full and I can't tell that my forehand has really improved that much.  But I can no longer blame my on-court performance on low boron levels.  And these capsules that your cereal comes shipped in are also too cute.  Just bigger than a tennis ball can, they ensure that, upon arrival, your cereal mix is in perfect shape. 

Now, let's say you're not that creative or you aren't sure exactly what to put with the raw 5-grain muesli mix.  Me and Goji has all kinds of custom mixes they've created and can recommend for you.  I'm very interested in trying the "cereally Invigorating" and the "Whoa! Protein" mixes.

Is this stuff cheap?  No.  With these high-quality ingredients, of course it's not.  But it's also not expensive.  In fact, the cost is comparable to what you pay for a good, organic cereal in the grocery store.  And you can monitor the cost of your mix as you add each ingredient.  While shipping for your first capsule runs $4.99, Me and Goji is running a special right now where additional capsules are shipped for only 99 cents.

I think this is a great way to get a healthy breakfast or snack and, with all of the clever naming possibilities (Save My Serve!), can see my tennis team captains getting custom artisinal cereal as a thank-you gift.  We at Tennis Fixation recommend you check out Me and Goji!


Photo courtesy of Me and Goji
© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 6, 2009

Arthur Ashe On Tennis

After the U.S. Open, I got really interested in Arthur Ashe. If you watched even 5 minutes of the Open, you probably heard his name repeatedly since the main stadium for the U.S. Open is (you guessed it) Arthur Ashe Stadium. Which also happens to be the site for Arthur Ashe Kid's Day which kicks off the U.S. Open each year.

I picked up his book, Arthur Ashe on Tennis: Strokes, Strategy, Traditions, Players, Psychology, and Wisdom. You probably know that Arthur Ashe died in 1993 at the age of 49 from AIDS-related complications. He won 3 Grand Slam titles in his tennis career - the 1968 U.S. Open, the 1970 Australian Open, and Wimbledon in 1975.

His book was published in 1995, after his death. So Ashe was not around to see all of the changes we see on the pro circuit today - powerful racquets, indestructible strings, open-stance strokes, exaggerated grips. But you and I aren't playing on the pro circuit (at least I don't think we are), so a lot of his points are still valid for club players like us, out to have fun and play some competitive tennis. He gives lots and lots of bullet-point tips on strokes and strategy. Here, for example, is a right-to-the-point list of tips that Ashe gives to immediately improve your game (pp. 50-51):
Keys to Better Play - Here are eight suggestions on how you can improve your game almost immediately:
  1. Play with a decisive attitude. Make up your mind where you want to hit the ball and hit it there, without worrying about your opponent. It is critical to do that on passing shots.
  2. Mix up your shots. Be unpredictable to keep your opponent off balance.
  3. Have a plan on break point. It can be as simple as trying to get the ball in play. Against a net-rusher, hit the ball cross-court over the lower part of the net, giving you a better angle for putting the ball at his feet. Against a baseliner, return deep, preferably to his weaker ground stroke so he cannot hurt you with his big shot. If you return short, he may hit a winner.
  4. Lob when you're in trouble. It is almost always a safer option that a passing shot when you are pulled out of court.
  5. Hit approach shots down the line. . . .
  6. Cover the open angles at the net. That means moving in the direction of your preceding shot. . . .
  7. Get moving after you hit the ball. You don't have time to stand there admiring your shot.
  8. Practice with a purpose. Use a lot of balls, divide your practice time into segments during which you practice only one things, and finish your session [by playing out points].
I probably need someone standing on the side of the court during my matches shouting, "Number 7! Number 7!"

But more than these insights, what I really like about Ashe's book is the chapters on tennis traditions and wisdom. He spends one whole page talking about the wearing of tennis whites and the somewhat controversial move to colored apparel. He even points out (p. 63) that "In 1969, I was among a group that broke the color-clothing barrier in the U.S. Open . . . by wearing pastel-colored shirts." Gasp!

Ashe has several great recommendations for playing doubles, which I like as many books, magazine articles and websites fail to recognize that that's what a whole lot of us are playing. I'll go into a few of those in future posts as they are pretty insightful and could definitely improve my doubles game (and maybe your's too).


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 4, 2009

Serving Into The Sun

Even though the weather has cooled off, we're still having plenty of sunny days where I play. And that can often mean that you, or one of you if you're playing doubles, has to stare into the sun during your serve. If you're playing early enough and the sun is still low, it may not be so bad. But if you're playing a later match and the courts are laid out just right (or actually laid out just wrong), you may have to deal with the sun in your eyes.

So what can you do to overcome the glare when you're the one serving into the sun? Try any or all of these tips:

  1. Wear a hat, cap or visor. This seems obvious until you find out that you forgot to pack one in your bag that day (as I have on occasion). So the corollary to this tip is - always carry a hat in your bag.
  2. Wear sunglasses. Same as above.
  3. Change your position on the baseline. Most of us tend to serve from the same spot on the baseline over and over again, without even thinking about it. So try changing your spot by getting closer to the center line or closer to the alley to avoid the glare. This has the added bonus of giving your serve a new, and hopefully confusing, look to your opponent.
  4. Change your stance. In other words, move your feet and position your body so that your chest is facing more towards the court or more towards the sidelines. Just make slight adjustments to your stance until you reduce the sun in your face as much as possible.
  5. Change your toss. This may mean moving your toss more to your left or right, more to the front, or more over your head. You can also try a shorter toss and a faster service motion.
  6. Just get the ball in.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, you just cannot see!  This has been the case with me in just the past few days.  In that situation, all you can do is try to pop the ball up and over the net and hope it lands in the service box.  At least that way, you can get the point started and hopefully beat your opponent with your other incredible moves.
That's 6 things you can do to hopefully cut down on the amount of glare you're facing. Note that Numbers 3, 4 and 5 will have some impact on your toss and your serve so practicing these moves in advance of throwing them in during a match would be best. But if the sun is really bad, trying any or all of these things, even without practice, could help you get your serve in and get the game going.


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 3, 2009

Effort Is A Skill

I just read a really great post on the Essential Tennis blog - Effort Is A Skill. It talks about the difference between the lackadaisical out-there-for-some-fun player and the player who tries to run down every single ball and give it everything they've got. Read this post (by clicking on the post title above) and learn that, whatever your athletic skill level, here's another way to get an advantage over your opponent.


Photo from
© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved

November 2, 2009

Quick Tennis Fix: Take Care of Your Racquet

Where do you keep your tennis racquet when you're not playing? In your house or the locker at your club where its protected from the heat, cold, humidity and other vagaries of the weather? Or in your car where its exposed to all of these things and more?

Your racquet is your most important piece of tennis equipment. And probably your most expensive. So treat it nicely by giving it a well-protected spot to rest in when you're not using it. Take it out of the car (or worse yet, the trunk of the car) and bring it inside. Your racquet will last longer and your strings will definitely last longer!


© Kim Selzman 2009
All Rights Reserved